Evolution of the NFL Quarterback: Today's Elite Compared to the Past

Nick SignorelliSenior Writer IAugust 16, 2011

Evolution of the NFL Quarterback: Today's Elite Compared to the Past

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    If we were to flash back in time, say to the mid-'90s. The NFL was similar to the game we all watch today, but what happens off the field is considerably different.

    There were no blogs like Bleacher Report, where anyone with the passion and time could become a writer of sorts. For that matter, the Internet itself was nothing like we have today.

    There was no fantasy football, where everyone could build their own team and play against friends, relatives and coworkers.

    There was no DirecTV, where anyone could watch their team play in the comfort of their home, at least if they lived out of market.

    If there were those things, I could almost hear the conversations of that time like we do today while writing, commenting and blogging.

    The 49ers traded Joe Montana?  What is Steve Young going to be able to do?

    Dan Marino is the best QB ever, I don't care about Super Bowls!

    Put Marino with the Steelers defense, and they would win the Super Bowl every year.

    Troy Aikman has three Super Bowls, how can anyone say he isn't one of the best in football?

    I don't care what anyone says, if Brett Favre keeps taking hits like that, he won't survive into his 30s!

    The reality is, every player listed above eventually broke down. Their talent level eventually started to decline, and the game became too much for them.

    The same thing is going to happen to the stars of today. It will just happen to some sooner than others.

    So, here are the superstars of tomorrow, compared to those of the past.

Peyton Manning

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    Peyton Manning: The Dan Marino of This Generation

    Manning, like Marino had no problem racking up the stats. He will probably go down as the best regular season QB to ever play the game.

    Like Marino, Manning has always struggled during the postseason, and has only been successful in one attempt in the Super Bowl.

    As a matter of fact, Manning has lost more playoff games than he has won. Similar to Marino, people will simply say, "Look at his stats," giving that as the sole reason to call him the best ever. And though there is some validity to that, championships are the bigger goal.

    You can ask Marino, he would give up every stat record for just one Super Bowl championship. Manning has that, but to this day, detractors say that Manning is simply average at best in the postseason.

Tom Brady

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    Tom Brady: The Joe Montana of This Generation

    When I watch Tom Brady play, it reminds me of watching Joe Montana.  When Montana played, he was able to pick the other team apart with ease. It was like the game was in slow motion for him, while everyone else was moving top speed.

    Like Montana, Brady plays his best games when the game is the biggest. During his playoff career, Brady started 10-0, winning the first three Super Bowls he was in. Since, he is 5-5.

End of the Road?

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    There is no question that Brady and Manning are two of the best to ever play the game. Being honest though, both Manning and Brady are both closer to the end of their careers than they are the beginning.

    With both having signed contracts over the last year, fans of theirs seem to think they are going to be able to play forever.

    If you look at the Marinos, Elways and Montanas, that simply ins't possible.

    Eventually, probably in the next year or two, we will begin to see the decline in ability for Manning and Brady (IF we haven't seen it already, at least in Manning).

    And I am SURE that Colts and Pats fans are going to blast me, but I have to call it like I see it.

Philip Rivers

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    Phillip Rivers Is the Dan Marino / Peyton Manning of This Generation

    Like Manning and Marino, Rivers plays the regular season like there is no one in the league that is worthy of being on the same field as him.

    He has become a regular participant in the annual Pro Bowl. Fans of the Chargers will say the same things that fans of the Colts currently do, and fans of the Dolphins used to.

    You can look at Rivers' stats, and see he is the best.  He throws for more yards than anyone else.  His offense is the best in the league.

    Still, once playoffs come, Rivers becomes average, and the Chargers have to say, wait until next year. Well, as Manning and Marino have learned, next year doesn't always come.  If Rivers does not take advantage soon, Chargers fans will start sounding like Marino and Manning fans sooner rather than later.

Ben Roethlisberger

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    Ben Roethlisberger Is the John Elway of This Generation

    Elway was the kind of player that was going to do what he had to, for his team to win the game.  Just like Ben Roethlisberger.

    No, Elway never had the stats of a Marino, but when the game was on the line, there were not a lot of players that were going to give it more than Elway was going to.

    Regardless of him having to run the ball, making a play with his feet, throwing on the run, diving for first downs or whatever else he had to do to win. Elway was going to do it.

    Similar is the way that Roethlisberger plays.  He wears the No. 7 as a tribute to Elway. More so than the number, the way Roethlisberger plays is more of a tribute to Elway than anything else.

Aaron Rodgers

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    It is said that in the NFL, it is impossible to replace a legend. Look at teams over the last decade that have lost a legend, then the trouble they have had trying to find a replacement.

    When Brett Favre left the Packers, many people believed that they were going to be in trouble. Fortunately for Packers fans, the Packers already had the replacement on the roster, in Aaron Rodgers.

    Now, I will be honest, I am not entirely sold on Rodgers as of yet. However, if he continues to play the way he did during the 2010 NFL playoffs and Super Bowl, there is only one person I will feel comfortable comparing him to.

    Aaron Rodgers Is this Generation's Tom Brady

    Both Brady and Rodgers are similar in the way they handle the pressure. Both are able to spread the field and pick apart a defense. The only real difference is that Rodgers can run better than Brady. Even still, that is like saying a turtle is faster than a tortoise.

    If Rodgers is for real, Packers fans may have two legends in a row that the next guy is going to have to replace.

Matt Ryan

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    Matt Ryan Is This Generation's Version of—someone still playing in this generation, and in the same divisionDrew Brees

    Ryan at least to me, plays a very similar game to that of Brees. They are both able to pick apart a defense, and make few mistakes.

    I know some people may say that Drew Brees is not on the downside of his career, well, I don't agree.  Brees does still have a few years left, but the end is a lot closer than the beginning.

    Brees was able to win a Super Bowl with a lot of talent around him, and I believe that the Falcons have finally put enough around Ryan that he can take that step to the next level.


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    As I said earlier, every NFL player eventually loses that ability to be better than everyone else. Some walk away from the game while they are still able to, some walk away once their play starts to decline.

    And in the case of Brett Favre, they seem to never walk away.

    But, just like those players of the '90s that were the elite, eventually they needed to make way for the young guys coming in.  Now, those young guys are preparing to have to make way themselves, for these guys to eventually take their place.

    The evolution of the NFL dictates this to be so. Right now, Colts and Patriots fans are saying how crazy I am, while fans of the Chargers, Steelers, Packers and Falcons are agreeing with me.

    Truth be told, one day, not too long from now, I will probably be writing another one of these articles, saying those players from the Chargers, Steelers, Packers and Falcons are on their slide, and those fans will be saying the same things as the Colts and Pats fans are saying now.

    All we can do is hang on, enjoy the ride and hope our teams eventually replace the current star more like the Packers than like the Dolphins.